Prescription drug abuse can stem from a variety of factors including, environmental, mental health and emotional factors as well as early and frequent exposure to readily-available medications. In the past, the increase in written prescriptions contributed to an increase in exposure and spread of painkiller addiction and abuse.
As of August 27, 2013 prescribers in New York State are required to utilize the I-STOP Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) when writing prescriptions for certain controlled substances. The PMP is a 24/7 online database which provides physicians with information about their patients’ prescription histories.
How does it work?
After creating an account with the Health Commerce System (HCS) practitioners and their designees can access a list of all controlled substances dispensed to patients and reported by pharmacies up to six months prior.
According to the American College of Physicians, documenting opioid use can be just as essential to avoiding addiction as the physical management of controlled substances. Prior to I-STOP’s initiation, there was a general misconception that if a prescription history wasn’t documented, it “didn’t happen.” While, in reality, patients could have an exceptional history of use and potential abuse, they could continue receiving more prescriptions with no consequences.
I-STOP has placed more regulations on prescriptions and distribution, forcing physicians to take responsibility for the patient’s wellbeing in ways that hadn’t yet been considered.
- Written prescriptions must be entirely legible.
- Prescriptions must include the patient’s full name and birthdate as well as the number of pills to be dispensed inscribed in numbers and words.
- All prescriptions must be photocopied and kept on file in case of attempted alteration.
In addition, physicians are encouraged to practice more vigilant awareness regarding the dangers of prescribing medications with the potential for addiction and abuse. Physicians are encouraged to obtain informed consent when coming to an agreement while prescribing pain medication.
Patient agreements should include a discussion about intended benefits of treatment, potential for risks and the plan for treatment termination if the patient exhibits unhealthy signs. Some of these signs can include:
- Requesting specific medications
- Selling the prescription or borrowing from another patient
- Injecting oral forms of medications
- Forging prescriptions
- Obtaining drugs from non-medical sources
- Abusing prescription and illicit drugs at the same time
- Increasing the dosage each time without instruction
- “Losing” prescriptions on a frequent basis
- Drug hoarding during a period of low symptoms
- Acquiring the same drugs from other sources
All of the issues mentioned above can be regulated and controlled by documenting previous medication usage and prescriptions written for each patient. As doctors become more informed about the medications they’re prescribing and the patients they’re prescribing them to, they can take better steps to prevent addiction at its source.
Painkiller addiction and abuse has risen within the last few years, however, with the increased spread of information and awareness, early use and abuse should begin to decrease.